The challenge for agriculture in the next century is to balance the priorities of food production with the needs for environmental protection and enhancement.
It is recognised that there are conflicting interests, including political, strategic and practical issues affecting the interactions between agriculture and the environment. The major pressure points can be described as: (1) the need for agriculture to produce safe, high quality food at an intensity sufficient to satisfy demand whilst maintaining sustainable agricultural systems; (2) the need to reduce the impact of pollution in soil, water and air; (3) the enhancement of biodiversity and agricultural landscapes; and (4) the threat of urban and industrial expansion into rural areas and the increasing pressure on land for the disposal of waste materials and for mineral extraction.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is coordinating a major UN interagency study to expand the information base on interactions between livestock production systems and the environment. Issues that will be assessed by the study include among others: improving livestock feed to reduce their overall environmental impact; overgrazing; animal manure management; animal waste disposal; domestic animal genetic diversity; wildlife diversity.
Paragraph 16 of the UN/ECE Arhus Declaration acknowledges more needs to be done to reconcile environmental concerns with agricultural practices, e.g. by further developing the rules of good agricultural practice, by encouraging environmentally friendly agricultural production techniques, by making agricultural support payments reflect environmental protection, and by implementing policies designed to neutralize the environmental impact of intensive animal production systems.